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Monday, July 3rd, 2017
Editorial

Florida Is Sinking

My grandparents were born around the turn of the last century. In 1900, there were no automobiles, airplanes, highways, strip centers, parking lots, malls, office buildings, condominiums or stadiums. There wasn’t much demand for petroleum products.

Think about what the state of Florida would have looked like from an aerial photograph (if they existed) in 1900. Think about what Florida looks like today. Think about what the United States looks like today. Think about what earth looks like.

I’m not a scientist, although I did take biology in the 10th grade. However, knowing that causes have effects, it seems likely to me that the changes that have occurred on this earth in the past 100 years or so have had an effect on our climate.

In my adult life—and I matured a little late—the following companies have been founded: Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix and DIRECTV. These companies have changed our world. They have employed millions of people and have created many more millions of jobs through their supporting companies.

The computer I’m typing this on, the Microsoft Word app I’m using, the Wi-Fi that will send it to Beachcomber, and the information I get from Google— none of this existed 30 years ago.

Scientists and engineers of varying disciplines created all of these things. I don’t know how any of it works. But I’m glad that smart people figured it out. That is why when it comes to climate change, I’m going to have to side with the 97 percent of scientists who think humans have affected our climate.

Scientists as a group may be one of most apolitical classes of people in this country. I appreciate them making the iPhone that I use, and when it comes to an assessment of climate change I’m going to accept their findings.

We live in a state that is particularly susceptible to climate change, specifically regarding rising sea levels. We also live in a state led by a governor who forbid state employees to use the terms “climate change,” “global warming” and “sustainability.”

Not talking about these issues is not an intelligent option.

Florida is in a unique geographical situation, particularly when it comes to rising waters. Our state sits atop a karst system of underground limestone caves with rivers and springs running the length of our peninsula. We have the Atlantic Ocean on one coast and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. We have rain falling from the sky. Water surrounds us from four sides. The polar ice caps are melting. Greenland and Iceland and Alaska are shrinking.

Every month in Miami, on a full moon, spring tides (high tides are higher and low tides are lower) bring flooding across the area. With no weather events—i.e., rains, storms, etc.—entire neighborhoods in south Florida are impassible because of standing water.

Recently, a wealthy, typically sensible farmer from Iowa was looking at property with a realtor. Standing on wet, mushy land just west of Miami the farmer said, “I’ve bought property all my life. I’ve bought it by the foot and I’ve bought it by the acre. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy it by the gallon.”

Climate change shouldn’t be a political issue. It doesn’t impact Democrats differently than it affects Republicans. The changes that will come can have incredibly positive results for people of all political inclinations.

Chattanooga, once the “dirtiest city” in the U.S., doesn’t sport the paper, pulp and steel mills that once lined the Tennessee River. Thanks to Bob Corker, an innovative mayor (and now senator), Chattanooga became a regional hub for tech businesses that rely on its incredibly high-speed Internet system. It’s natural beauty and proximity to outdoor activities has resulted in its being declared the “Number One City in America” twice in the last decade by Outside magazine.

Birmingham, known for 100 years for its steel mills (and the resulting soot and smoke) just made Outside’s “Best 25 Cities to Live In” for the first time. The UAB Medical Center has been a catalyst for thousands of high paying jobs and medical related industries.

Cleveland, once known for the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969, is a bustling city--rapidly becoming a hub for innovation in the Midwest.

Whatever you think about Los Angeles, you don’t think about smog anymore. Restrictions on automobile emissions have succeeded in clearing the air in the most auto-centric city in our country. California is now producing so much solar energy that they have to offload power to neighboring states.

The transitions these cities made didn’t happen overnight. They didn’t necessarily happen because people wanted change. They happened out of necessity. Old industries disappeared and smart people figured out new ones to take their place.

If for some reason you think that scientists are wrong or have a hidden agenda or are politically driven, then we’ll just have to disagree. But even so, if you had to bet, your money should be with them.

The steps that need to be taken to combat climate change—even if climate change is a “hoax”—involve imminently reasonable projects. Planting trees (for many reasons), encouraging pedestrian and bicycle friendly towns, cleaning up our waterways, demanding sensible development, managing coastal erosion, embracing the move to sustainable energy, pushing for responsible agriculture…all of this will create jobs and make for a better environment.

You might not think that the sky is falling, but you don’t have to be a scientist to know that Florida is sinking. You can figure that out with a tape measure.